To see the Recco gear review scroll to the bottom of the post.
Dale Atkins from RECCO wrote me:
To borrow your own words, “if you had put any thought” into researching (or had any experience in organized avalanche rescue) your review of the RECCO Rescue System, I think you would have drawn a very different conclusion. There are reasons that more than 700 rescue services around the world use the system. The system works; it finds people and sometimes those persons are alive. Perhaps you thought that writing a controversial review makes for more interesting reading. That might be true when the effort is well researched and facts are fuzzy, but a review filled with half-truths and spiced with hyperbole and falsehoods is malicious. Unfortunately, to an uninformed public your review comes off as authentic. Tragically, your review adversely affects the efforts of ski patrols and mountain rescue teams around the world. Even worse, your efforts might remove any chance at luck a buried person might need.
RECCO saves lives.
You might not know this but RECCO saves lives. The tally is not many, but that’s the nature of avalanche rescue. The first life saved was in 1987, and just about every year the system saves several lives. Those persons and their families are more than happy to have been found by the RECCO System (and some of those folks didn’t even have RECCO reflectors). So far all live rescues have occurred in Europe where we have more detectors and more reflector-equipped skiers and riders, but we are increasing numbers of detectors and reflectors in North America. Also, every winter rescue teams find buried, unlucky, deceased folks, even here in North America too. While these lives were not saved, the RECCO System enabled rescue teams to search quickly with fewer rescuers, which means those teams exposed fewer rescuers to potential dangers. For example, this winter in Chamonix the RECCO System located the body of a person 60 meters down in a glacial crevasse, not an area where you could field lots of searchers. (The person was recovered.)
The French avalanche association (ANENA) recommends RECCO reflectors. Early last winter the French national association for the study of snow and avalanches recommended publically skiers and snowboarders have both transceivers and RECCO reflectors. << http://www.anena.org/espace_presse/communique_recco.pdf >> Back in 2006 the International Commission for Alpine Rescue offered a similar statement when they wrote “To be equipped with a transceiver or at least a transponder, e.g. the Recco system, renders organized rescue more efficient.” << http://www.ikar-cisa.org/ikar-cisa/documents/2007/20061014-Statement-Avalanche-Safety-Dev-E.pdf >>
RECCO reflectors are not a substitute for beacons.
I need to clear up a point that you seemed to have missed. Just about all of our materials, which include booklets, movies, hangtags, and garment tags say “The RECCO System is not a substitute for the transceiver.” We WANT people to be equipped with and know how to use transceivers (aka beacons) because transceivers are the BEST tool for companion rescue. The RECCO System is only another tool for organized rescue teams. Why? Because a lot (about half) of buried victims need more help than what their friends can give. You might be surprised to know that sometimes organized rescue – even in North America and in the backcountry – arrives at the same time or even before companions have started the search for a buried friend. This is one of the reasons why our R9 Detector also includes an avalanche rescue beacon (457 kHz) receiver, so a single rescuer can search for both RECCO reflectors and an avalanche beacon at the same time.
Surviving an avalanche burial is luck.
Getting buried in an avalanche is bad news and I give you credit for mentioning the part from the Barryvox user’s manual, “only about half of all victims who have been completely buried in avalanches are rescued alive.” Actually, the numbers are much worse. In fact, 10-years of data from United States presented at the 2010 International Snow Science Workshop showed that only about 15% of victims totally buried and without avalanche rescue transceivers survived. If you remove from this tally those buried victims whose yells from under the snow were heard, only 7% of buried victim survive. Beacons improved the statistics but not nearly as much as most people think. When considering only folks wearing an avalanche beacon the statistic improved to 39%. Sadly, this statistic has actually been decreasing steadily (from 50%) over the past five years. Surviving an avalanche burial – even when wearing an avalanche beacon and any other device – is luck.
RECCO reflectors put you in a place to be lucky.
While I never try to trust in luck, I do believe in luck and it’s important to put yourself in positions where you can be lucky. Remember that if you’re completely buried with no rescue device and too deep for your yells to be heard, you will have to be extremely lucky to survive (7%). Like an avalanche rescue beacon, RECCO reflectors put you in a place to be lucky.
Unfortunately many folks who are neophyte-sidecountry or -backcountry riders, venture out with nothing. While they maybe good skiers and snowboarders they are ignorant or sometimes chose to ignore backcountry dangers, so they don’t carry beacons, probes, and shovels. At least RECCO reflectors stuck to their jacket (pants, boots, or helmet) offer a basic rescue system.
While reflectors can help neophytes, reflectors can also aid experts. Too often even experts forget to carry (or chose not to carry) or turn on their beacons. For these cases when boneheaditis sets in RECCO reflectors, again, provide a basic or backup rescue system.
We’re very clear that the RECCO System does not guarantee survival. The System puts people in a place to be lucky. If you or a friend were buried, I suspect you would want every opportunity to be lucky so you would have a better chance to survive. The RECCO System gives another chance.
“I have reflectors, they might tempt me to make bad decisions.”
Whoa, now you’re probably thinking, “Well, RECCO reflectors lead people to make bad/risky decisions.” Do seatbelts tempt you to drive recklessly? I think not and the same applies to RECCO reflectors.
Every winter a lot of very experienced – even experts – skiers, riders, and snowmobilers, who have significant amounts of avalanche awareness training make dumb and sometimes fatal mistakes, and they didn’t even have RECCO reflectors. In the mountains (as well as at home or in the city) people make wrong or dumb decisions all the time. Some people choose to take risks, no matter what. Intelligent folks take risks responsibly.
The RECCO System is sophisticated technology.
You state the RECCO detector “is nothing more than an Alpine metal detector.” Not even close. The technologies are totally different, unrelated and give vastly different performances. The best metal detectors have only a range of a couple of meters, and most only offer much less. The RECCO System has a range of up to 200 meters. When speaking about RECCO there are sound technology and search reasons why riders should have two reflectors. It’s not marketing hype. Two reflectors increase the probability and range of detection, which are serious concerns when you’re under the snow, whether in an avalanche or headfirst in a tree well.
RECCO is fast and rescue teams are arriving sooner.
You grumble that RECCO is fast but only after it arrives on scene, and you snidely gripe, “Yeah maybe an hour later once you’re already dead.” Yes, organized rescue is often handicapped by distance and travel time. But once rescuers arrive would you rather they search with RECCO’s handheld radar system and be done in minutes, or have 20-40 people pushing in probe poles for two to twenty hours?
About your one-hour comment, you probably didn’t know that about 1 in 4 buried victims are still alive after one hour, and some (lucky) people survive for many, many hours under the snow. When a rescue team shows up one, two, or ten hours later, there is still a chance that the buried victim might be alive. That’s why we as rescuers search with all available tools: transceivers, RECCO detectors, dogs, and lastly probe poles.
Thanks to cell phones, satellite phones, PLBs, and SPOTs rescue teams are often notified within minutes of an accident. Helicopters, snowmobiles and snowcats allow teams to travel faster and reach accident sites sooner. In more cases, and these incidents are not just inside of ski areas or in Europe, rescue teams are reaching avalanches at the same time as companions or even before companions. It makes sense that rescuers, skiers and riders use beacons and RECCO reflectors to speed up the search. This is one of the reasons why our R9 Detector also includes an avalanche rescue beacon (457 kHz) receiver, so a single rescuer can search for both RECCO reflectors and an avalanche beacon at the same time.
More deflectors out there than you might think.
The RECCO detector is a tool for organized rescue teams and there are more detectors out there than you might think. In your new backyard – the Whistler-Blackcomb area from Squamish to Pemberton – we have placed more than a dozen detectors. In Canada we have equipped more than 50 resorts, SAR teams and national Parks, and plan to provide more detectors. Stateside we have equipped about twice that number. In some local spots, for example Colorado’s Front Range and Summit/Eagle county areas, more than 24 detectors are in the hands of ski patrols and mountain rescue teams. In and near the Aspen resorts the ski patrols and local mountain rescue team have 11 detectors. Similar numbers of detectors cover the Jackson area in Wyoming, Utah’s Wasatch, California’s Lake Tahoe, Bozeman-Big Sky area of Montana, Washington’s Cascade mountains and numerous other mountain areas.
The Original Gear Review posted by Unofficial Networks
If you have put any thought into how someone might be rescued from an avalanche then you already know that the RECCO Rescue System is a scam in all but the rarest of cases.Stitched into many jackets, some pants, and increasingly more common other snow-sport outerwear is a small electrical strip that is one piece of the RECCO Rescue System. The other half is a “rescue network” that many ski areas advertise, and is in reality, nothing more than an alpine metal detector. RECCO says that it, “utilizes advanced radar technology to make a quick location of an avalanche victim possible” Quick? They proceed to say that “the two part RECCO system is advanced rescue technology that enables fast searching and directional pinpointing of a victim’s precise location” Fast? Yeah maybe an hour later once you’re already dead. RECCO then advertises that “the reflector requires no training, no batteries, and never needs to be switched on” They claim that the RECCO reflector is “maintenance free”. Perfect for Joey’s to venture into the backcountry without proper avalanche gear or knowledge.
RECCO “recommends” two reflectors per person for optimal system performance. Come on…Really? A sales person working for commission will tell you that the RECCO strip in your jacket may save you in the case of an avalanche, but lets think this through. Unless a ski patroller on a RECCO-equipped mountain happens to witness an in-bounds slide and has the bulky RECCO locator device on hand or very near (almost never the case), then the small chip in your jacket, and probably pants too, is an overpriced way of helping to find your body in the spring. If it were possible to request a item without RECCO capabilities then I would recommend that you save the extra money and put it towards a beacon. But it’s not possible to buy the jacket that you’re interested in and opt out of buying the RECCO Rescue System so all that I hope you get out of this rant is a more realistic sense of security while wearing the prevalent RECCO device.
RECCO concludes their pamphlet by saying, “the RECCO Rescue System does not prevent avalanches or guarantee the survival or localization of a victim. Remember, knowledge and common sense are the best ways to avoid accidents”. My MAMMUT Barryvox avalanche beacon user’s manual ends their pamphlet with similar words but continues to say, “Be aware that, in spite of practice and all the technical advances, only about half of all victims who have been completely buried in avalanches are rescued alive”. RECCO should maybe add a sentence to say, If you think the RECCO rescue reflector will suffice for an proper avalanche beacon in an avalanche scenario you will die!